Do such tracking services signal the end of what little privacy we had?
San Francisco-based Twilio now powers the communications for New York City’s contact COVID-19 tracing initiative. The company’s partnered with several states and governments to extend advanced telehealth solutions to help mitigate the spread of the novel Coronavirus.
Twilio’s latest efforts are in conjunction with the city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecomms (DoITT). Twilio said in a statement, NYC’s planning to deploy its cloud-based contact center on Twilio Flex as well as harness it’s SMS and Voice capabilities, which I’m told are ‘key parts of the City’s COVID-19 tracing program.’ Twilio’s platform provides cloud contact center and notification solutions for remote contact tracers to interview patients, notify contacts, and send symptom survey reminders.
A spokesperson for the company told UC Today it was paramount for governments, in particular, to explore strategies to ‘slow the spread of the novel Coronavirus, adding:
“Public health departments have identified contact tracing as a crucial step in the process. When implemented effectively, contact tracing can lessen the impact of COVID-19 on communities and economies by lowering mortality rates and allowing people to safely return to work”
New York City recently announced plans to hire thousands of contact tracers to combat the further spread of the virus over the next few months. The solution could lead to a reduction in the number of cases, too, as it offers a way to securely connect with COVID-19 patients and known contacts. In addition to monitoring the spread of the virus, Twilio’s omnichannel contact center harnesses the power of Twilio Flex to call, message, and email COVID-19 patients. According to George Hu, Chief Operating Officer, Twilio – it does a lot more.
“We want to educate them on the virus and identify their close contacts through self-reporting. The platform also provides messaging-based alerts using Twilio Voice, SMS, email, or WhatsApp that prompt patients to fill out secure surveys on their symptoms”
Safety aside, such a tracing program does present several privacy concerns, but the long-standing argument is: when do we sacrifice privacy for the sake of public safety? Governments around the world have instituted similar COVID-19 tracking systems, with citizens mostly falling in line in the name of public safety. On the more extreme end of things, there are countries like China. There, several videos of drones flying overhead telling people to ‘go back in the house,’ have surfaced.
The Israeli government instituted a policy to track known and suspected Coronavirus patients through their cellphones. Citing ‘grave dangers to privacy,’ Israel’s Supreme Court ruled the government must present its use of mobile phone tracking to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus as a formal legislative vote. Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu previously circumvented this step in March when members of cabinet approved emergency regulations that enabled Shin Bet (the country’s internal security force) to access cellular data to retrace the movements of people infected with the COVID-19 virus.
What are your thoughts on COVID-19 tracking efforts happening on a global scale? Are you willing to sacrifice the little privacy you have in the interest of the public good? Let us know in the comments section below.